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February 23, 2007

Pakistani Cleric: Don't Get Polio Immunization; If You Die From It, You'll Die A Martyr

Smart, tough:

A cleric in a northern Pakistani village has opposed a foreign-funded polio vaccination campaign of the Pakistan government, urging locals not to take any preventive measures against polio "as those killed during an outbreak are martyrs". "I must tell my brothers and sisters that finding a cure (vaccination) for an epidemic before its outbreak is not allowed in Sharia ," said Maulana Fazlullah during a Friday sermon in Mam Dherai village where he is building a madrassa with local funds.

“According to Sharia, one should avoid going to the areas where an epidemic has broken out, but those who do go to such areas and get killed during an outbreak are martyrs,” he said. The provincial government has launched an anti-polio campaign to run between February 20 and 22 in selected parts of the province, but there have been reports of people refusing to get their children vaccinated.

Sermons like this are influencing people into refusing polio vaccination in many parts of the NWFP. Like Nigeria, Pakistan is another country where clergy is blocking efforts aimed at eliminating fatal diseases like polio. Cases of people misbehaving with polio vaccination staff have been reported from several areas. Recently, a surgeon, Dr Ghani Khan, was killed in a bomb blast in remote Bajaur Agency, causing postponement of the anti-polio campaign, official sources said.

Swat is one area where polio staff is facing resistance, said an official, adding that deeply religious people often resisted things involving foreigners.

Maulana Fazlullah suspects the intentions of foreign agencies involved in funding drives against fatal diseases: “I don’t understand why foreigners would think of our well-being when we see that they are killing Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.” He cited the example of a companion of the Prophet who, he said, was ‘martyred’ during an epidemic.

Okay, this is where people get pissed off with me. Compare.

Is it the same? Well, it's in the same ballpark. Preventing serious, possibly fatal disease should be a pretty high priority in anyone's book, and personally I don't think nebulous, indirect, hypothetical concerns about possible adverse social consequences should trump real, tangible dangers of cancer.

I also don't get the whole argument that 11-12 year old girls shouldn't be getting the HPV vaccine, because such vaccines might signal to them it's okay to have sex.

All right -- suppose that is what it signals. It's signalling that when girls are really fairly unlikely to be even be thinking about sex. At that age, they're thinking about holding hands and making out, mostly.

What if we delay giving the disease to an age when girls are far more likely to be interested in actual intercourse? Wouldn't giving this virus to a sexually-curious 15 year old signal more strongly that now she's got her anti-cervical-cancer shot, now it's time to start having sex?

Any age older that 11-12 coincides with the actual onset of increasing sexual desire and thus would be even more of "signal" to start having sex.

Unless you're talking about some absurd age like 21. In which case, chances are, a girl has almost certainly already had sex, possibly contracted a virus that would have been easily avoided, and now has a higher than necessary chance of contracting deadly cervical cancer.

I know, I know: Parents should decide. Well, some new bills "mandating" the HPV vaccine permit parental opt-outs, though I have to say that's a pretty grave risk to inflict on a girl.

I quite accidentally caught Stephen Colbert or John Stewart last night, and a religious type was quoted, railing that this new vaccine promotes "sex without consequences." This is the vindictive, punitive face of social conservativism I don't like: We believe that severe consequences for premarital sex are a positive moral good, because they help restrain sexual promiscuity through fear of death. And, yes, actual death. And we're going to fight to keep those dangers alive, to force you into a more chaste lifestyle. And if you wind up with AIDS or cervical cancer, well, you knew the risks -- whore.

Well, there is some minor social value in an external, tangible check against promiscuity, I suppose. But isn't such a marginally restraining effect rather trivial compared to a higher chance of contracting cancer?

When you consider the fact that just about the only things teens fear, to the extent they fear it at all, is pregnancy, and there is now basically no "penalty" to be paid whatsoever along these lines (birth control takes care of most pregnancy concerns, the occasional abortion takes care of the rest), wouldn't one have to conclude that the most restraining fear of all is now all but dead, and these other fears are rather small potatoes?

If a young girl wants to have sex, you think she's going to give much weight to the possibility she might contract cervical cancer at age 45? I don't. They don't even seem to think much of their chances of contracting HIV, and that's something they could get tomorrow.

Teenagers think they're invulnerable, their idea of long-range planning extends a few months down the road at most, and most can't even conceive of one day being middle-aged.

Oh, and HPV is only primarily, not exclusively, spread by sexual contact. So the vaccine protects against non-sexual transmissions of the disease, too. Explain that part to a kid (truthfully), and just avoid the whole "license to screw" debate entirely.

With the pill, nearly unresticted abortion on demand, the sexualization of children in the media, etc., I just can't see that protecting a girl against cancer creates anything more than the most trivial marginal inducement to have sex.

Thanks to DRI, as far as the Pakistan polio story. The rest of this was me.

Hypothetical: If an HIV vaccine is developed in the next several years -- and every so often scientists believe they're about to make just such a breakthrough -- when would such a vaccination be appropriate? At what age?

If the answer is "16" or "17," well, that's just about the time the majority of teenagers are determined to lose their virginity.

If it's older -- 19, 20, 21 -- well, there are going to be kids contracting AIDS for no particuarly good reason. And, of course, spreading it.

I kind of think the younger the better. Not because I expect pre-teens to be having sex, or endorse them doing so. But for the opposite reason: They're mostly too young to see the sex as anything other then yucchy and so will read as much into the vaccine as they read into the MMR vaccinations.

More On Pak Resistance To Polio Vaccine: It's being branded an "infidel vaccine."

Primitive screw-heads, the lot of them.

And is it really an "infidel" vaccine? Doesn't "infidel" usually mean "Christian," and wasn't Jonas Salk a Jewish pig?

And Still More Primitive Screw-Heads: 100 bicycles used by vaccinators stolen;

and, of course, this being the Religion of Peace and all...

Leader of anti-polio drive murdered by IED.

You know, now that I think of it, this is really a Christian-Jewish plot, isn't it?

They're very clever for finally figuring this out.

I approve of their smart, tough attitude of the very minor disease of polio. ("Cured" by a JEW -- yeah, right.")

And if tens of thousands in the very pro-Al-Qaeda northwest frontier province of Pakistan should die painful deaths, let's face it, that is nothing at all compared to the glory of martyrdom.

Godspeed, fellers.

Who knew the first deployment of a deadly, pandemically-contagious bioweapon by Islamists would be against themselves?

As they say on Arrested Development, "Well! That was a freebie."

A Fatuous Editorial: Good question -- "If a vaccine was developed for lung cancer, would the same anti-HPV-vaccine critics oppose it because it encouraged smoking?"

A good question, but stupidly answered. Because the answer offered is that this particular vaccine only protects against one of a myriad of STDs (HIV being at the head of the list of dangers not avoided by the shot), so those advocating the vaccine are only trying to make sex less dangerous, rather than dealing with the risky behavior that opens one up to a whole range of behaviors.

The argument is self-defeating: If this vaccine only prevents against one deadly disease, but not others, how, precisely, is it encouraging sex? "Congrats, Suzie . You now have a greatly decreased chance of suffering from cervical cancer later in your life. So go out and have lots of sex! You only now have to worry about pregnancy, AIDS, Herpes, syphillus and other diseases which may be cured but which may sterilize you if not cured in time, and just generally being perceived as a whore."

Which is it? Is it that the vaccine makes sex too darned safe, or not safe enough? Can't be both at once.

And let's talk mixed messages. Does Jesus advocate good Christian chastity in order to provide an example to the unbelievers and to emulate Him simply to show one's love of the Lord, or does Jesus say "Don't have premarital sex, 'cause you might catch something"?

The former message is spiritual and moral in nature; the latter is simply utilitarian and pragmatic, a simply amoral calculus of risk versus reward. And I think there's more textual support for the former.

If Jesus' message is the latter, then it would seem that if the premise is invalidated ("You might catch something"), the command that follows from it is rendered inoperative, right? If Jesus' only concern here is whether your can catch a deadly STD, well, then Jesus would apparently not be concerned by safe premarital/extramarital sex, as his "message" is just basically a medical advisory, and not primarily a moral precept.

Does Jesus need, or want of, serious, often lethal sexually transmitted diseases to help enforce his teachings?

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posted by Ace at 05:05 PM

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